The particular impression I had received proved in the morning light, _epeat, not quite successfully presentable to Mrs. Grose, though I reinforce_t with the mention of still another remark that he had made before w_eparated. "It all lies in half a dozen words," I said to her, "words tha_eally settle the matter. 'Think, you know, what I might do!' He threw tha_ff to show me how good he is. He knows down to the ground what he 'might' do.
That's what he gave them a taste of at school."
"Lord, you do change!" cried my friend.
"I don't change—I simply make it out. The four, depend upon it, perpetuall_eet. If on either of these last nights you had been with either child, yo_ould clearly have understood. The more I've watched and waited the more I'v_elt that if there were nothing else to make it sure it would be made so b_he systematic silence of each. never, by a slip of the tongue, have they s_uch as alluded to either of their old friends, any more than Miles ha_lluded to his expulsion. Oh, yes, we may sit here and look at them, and the_ay show off to us there to their fill; but even while they pretend to be los_n their fairytale they're steeped in their vision of the dead restored. He'_ot reading to her," I declared; "they're talking of them—they're talkin_orrors! I go on, I know, as if I were crazy; and it's a wonder I'm not. Wha_'ve seen would have made you so; but it has only made me more lucid, made m_et hold of still other things."
My lucidity must have seemed awful, but the charming creatures who wer_ictims of it, passing and repassing in their interlocked sweetness, gave m_olleague something to hold on by; and I felt how tight she held as, withou_tirring in the breath of my passion, she covered them still with her eyes.
"Of what other things have you got hold?"
"Why, of the very things that have delighted, fascinated, and yet, at bottom,
as I now so strangely see, mystified and troubled me. Their more than earthl_eauty, their absolutely unnatural goodness. It's a game," I went on; "it's _olicy and a fraud!"
"On the part of little darlings—?"
"As yet mere lovely babies? Yes, mad as that seems!" The very act of bringin_t out really helped me to trace it—follow it all up and piece it al_ogether. "They haven't been good—they've only been absent. It has been eas_o live with them, because they're simply leading a life of their own. They'r_ot mine—they're not ours. They're his and they're hers!"
"Quint's and that woman's?"
"Quint's and that woman's. They want to get to them."
Oh, how, at this, poor Mrs. Grose appeared to study them! "But for what?"
"For the love of all the evil that, in those dreadful days, the pair put int_hem. And to ply them with that evil still, to keep up the work of demons, i_hat brings the others back."
"Laws!" said my friend under her breath. The exclamation was homely, but i_evealed a real acceptance of my further proof of what, in the bad time—fo_here had been a worse even than this!—must have occurred. There could hav_een no such justification for me as the plain assent of her experience t_hatever depth of depravity I found credible in our brace of scoundrels. I_as in obvious submission of memory that she brought out after a moment: "The_ere rascals! But what can they now do?" she pursued.
"Do?" I echoed so loud that Miles and Flora, as they passed at their distance,
paused an instant in their walk and looked at us. "Don't they do enough?" _emanded in a lower tone, while the children, having smiled and nodded an_issed hands to us, resumed their exhibition. We were held by it a minute;
then I answered: "They can destroy them!" At this my companion did turn, bu_he inquiry she launched was a silent one, the effect of which was to make m_ore explicit. "They don't know, as yet, quite how—but they're trying hard.
They're seen only across, as it were, and beyond—in strange places and on hig_laces, the top of towers, the roof of houses, the outside of windows, th_urther edge of pools; but there's a deep design, on either side, to shorte_he distance and overcome the obstacle; and the success of the tempters i_nly a question of time. They've only to keep to their suggestions of danger."
"For the children to come?"
"And perish in the attempt!" Mrs. Grose slowly got up, and I scrupulousl_dded: "Unless, of course, we can prevent!"
Standing there before me while I kept my seat, she visibly turned things over.
"Their uncle must do the preventing. He must take them away."
"And who's to make him?"
She had been scanning the distance, but she now dropped on me a foolish face.
"By writing to him that his house is poisoned and his little nephew and niec_ad?"
"But if they are, miss?"
"And if I am myself, you mean? That's charming news to be sent him by _overness whose prime undertaking was to give him no worry."
Mrs. Grose considered, following the children again. "Yes, he do hate worry.
That was the great reason—"
"Why those fiends took him in so long? No doubt, though his indifference mus_ave been awful. As I'm not a fiend, at any rate, I shouldn't take him in."
My companion, after an instant and for all answer, sat down again and graspe_y arm. "Make him at any rate come to you."
I stared. "To me?" I had a sudden fear of what she might do. "'Him'?"
"He ought to be here—he ought to help."
I quickly rose, and I think I must have shown her a queerer face than eve_et. "You see me asking him for a visit?" No, with her eyes on my face sh_vidently couldn't. Instead of it even—as a woman reads another—she could se_hat I myself saw: his derision, his amusement, his contempt for the breakdow_f my resignation at being left alone and for the fine machinery I had set i_otion to attract his attention to my slighted charms. She didn't know—no on_new—how proud I had been to serve him and to stick to our terms; yet sh_onetheless took the measure, I think, of the warning I now gave her. "If yo_hould so lose your head as to appeal to him for me—"